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Tuesday
Aug062013

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch Android Tablet

Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Leave it to Samsung to conjure up new screen-sizes and in between screen sizes for its popular products. The inventors of the Phablet have once more managed to squeeze another option and price point between the frenzied 7-inch tablet market and the moribund 10-inch Android tablet market with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch version.

For anyone that's owned or seen a Galaxy S3 or Galaxy S4 smartphone or Galaxy Notes 2 and 8, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch (SRT of $299.99) will look and feel very familiar.

The white plastic casing with silver plastic trim, the rounded corners, single plastic home button flanked by soft-touch Menu and Back buttons below all look remarkably similar to Samsung's other offerings.

Designed to most closely target the iPad mini in terms of size, the 8.0-inch WSVGA PLS Display with Gorilla Glass is bright and well-defined. It proved to be great for watching episodes of Top Gear UK as well as looking at photos uploaded to Google + and Flickr.

Samsung's TouchWiz OS overlay adorns every nook and cranny of the Tab 8 and while there are conveniences, some users coming from simpler Android tablets might also find some confusion in terms of options and controls. It gets better though, once you've spent ample time with the device.

Another thing to get used to are Samsung's various hubs and ecosystems which stud the device's app menu. You have the Readers Hub, Music Hub, Game Hub and Video Hub. While curated by Samsung, much of the content in these hubs can be sourced through Google Play.

The Tab 8 comes with a 1.5GHz Dual Core Processor, we would have expected at least a quad-core processor at this point in time, but looks like Samsung is trying to keep pricing down. Last year's Nexus 7 has a quad-core processor and the 16GB version only costs $199. Just saying. You do get 1GB or RAM which helps push things along quickly, specially for multi-app and multi-screen functions.

The Tab 8 is a bit too big to be handled  and manipulated with one hand, even for someone like myself with large mitts, I had to use both hands to get things done. Holding it with one hand for reading or watching video is just fine, at least for a while.

Watching videos, Netflix streaming and even games feel slightly more epic than when using smaller sized tablets. So if that's what you use your tablet for, the Tab 8 is a definite upgrade.

The Tab 8 is surprisingly slim for its size and feels rather solid for a plastic device. It doesn't feel as beefy as the first Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 but it beats the Note 2 and previous Tab 7 devices in terms of rigidity and sturdiness. The Tab 8 makes good use of its dimensions, thin bezels give the impression of more screen real estate and makes navigating the expanse of screen a bit easier with one hand.

The secret weapon of the Tab 8, which none of its competing devices have, is an IR blaster and an efficient way to control your TV and Home Theatre appliances. The Peel Smart Remote with IrDA support to control most TVs, Set-top Boxes, and Blu-Ray Players make the Tab 8 one of the leading options for anyone who wants a living room tablet that also does double duty as the universal remote.

Some users might not agree with Samsung's recent decision to have all their Tab devices only available in white, specially now that colours have started to be a thing again with consumer electronics. It is a polarizing decision.

Some see white as elegant and luxurious while others see it as bland and generic. Samsung is going for brand recognition and familiarity. Which is good after years of having new devices look and feel wholly different from the previous generation.

I honestly don't think the specs and, more importantly, the pricing of the Tab 8 are going to take much away from the iPad mini which starts at $329 or roughly 30 bucks more. You don't get an IR blaster or the microSD expansion but you have a more upscale device, made from stainless steel with an overall more durable design. The Tab 8 (or any of the tabs, for that matter) doesn't have a 4G-LTE variant which means it can't compete in that specialized (although tiny) LTE-enabled tablet niche.

If the Tab 8 isn't your cup of tea or is out of your budget. Samsung's Tab 3 7-inch looks like a great alternative, specially if you can't live without TouchWiz and want a more portable tablet. And yeah, the 10-inch Tabl is still availble if you want something larger.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8-inch does present solid competition against other Android tablets and is one of the few 8-inch devices in the market right now. It feels good and is fast, responsive and has impressive battery life. 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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